Born: 26 July, 1971 – Rotorua
Test record: 18 Tests (1995-98) – 4 tries (16 points)
Tours: 1995 World Cup, 1998 tour of Great Britain
Wellington hooker and Auckland Warriors original Syd Eru held a mortgage on the New Zealand Test No.9 jumper for four seasons in the 1990s.
The Upper Hutt Tigers livewire burst onto the domestic scene in 1990, debuting for his province and representing Junior Kiwis. He featured for Kiwi Colts against France the following season and went to the 1992 Pacific Cup with New Zealand Māori .
Seemingly earmarked as the next in line behind Duane Mann among Kiwi hookers, Eru incurred an untimely suspension in 1993 that allowed Denvour Johnston an opportunity to impress in the Wellington side. Despite Eru spearheading Upper Hutt’s premiership victory, Johnston was named as Mann’s understudy for the tour of Britain and France.
But Eru displaced incumbent Test captain Mann in the fledgling Warriors’ line-up early in 1995 and subsequently usurped him in the Kiwis side, playing all five Tests against France and Australia. The 23-year-old’s speed out of dummy-half and slick passing game was crucial to his club side in their impressive inaugural season and he was an automatic selection for New Zealand’s World Cup squad. But after playing in the opening pool game against Tonga, Eru tested positive for the banned substance ephedrine and was suspended for the remainder of the tournament.
Eru’s 1996 season was hampered by injury but he recovered to play in New Zealand series cleansweeps of Papua New Guinea and Great Britain. He was a mainstay in Auckland’s disappointing 1997 Super League season, playing all 18 games and helping the side to the World Club Challenge semis.
One of his finest moments came in the shock Test win over Super League Australia at the end of ’97, scoring two tries in a stunning 30-12 victory. Eru was ruled out of the unforgettable Anzac Test triumph the following season and made just 13 NRL appearances in 1998, but he returned for all five matches of the Kiwis’ post-season campaign – two convincing losses to the Kangaroos and a series success in Great Britain.
But injuries continued to plague Eru, ruling him out of contention for the 1999 Anzac Test. The form of Australian imports Jason Death and Robert Mears rendered Eru surplus to requirements at the Warriors, while Melbourne Storm’s Richard Swain emerged to take a stranglehold on the Kiwis’ dummy-half spot.